Sonya and Michael have been a couple, both romantically and creatively, since their days as art students at an obscure art school in Germany. Now frustrated creative artists, their partnership has been fraying recently, with both people in the relationship dealing with personal crises, and their reckoning comes to a fever pitch at a random parking lot in California.
Being the land of self-help, a bystander named Jules steps in to mediate between the pair. But the mediation serves to dredge up a lot more than romantic discontent, both for the couple and their drive-by couples therapist.
Written and directed by Mike Lars White, this short comedy takes on a commonly portrayed romantic relationship crisis, when two people's hidden resentments and fears come out in the open and they must talk openly to move forward. It's a situation that many people relate to and go through. But with its absurdist situation -- one whose circumstances keep spiraling into increasing levels of absurdity -- the film offers a heightened, screwball take, spinning off into unexpected directions that amuse, and entertain but also poke fun at the way human beings can't help but entangle themselves with one another.
Fans of Arrested Development or anything in the oeuvre of Larry David will enjoy the fast pacing, jagged rhythms and roving handheld style of the film's visual approach, which captures the small but pointed moments of pettiness and preoccupation that seem to set off cycles of reactivity between characters. The rhythms of action and reaction drive the storytelling, and while the narrative template follows the formula of romantic drama, the plot isn't what's driving the momentum.
Instead, Sonya and Michael's drama are the proverbial clown car of a comedy, where opening a door unleashes the full extent of each character's neuroses. The ensemble cast does an admirable job pinging off one another, keeping the pace fast-moving and the emotional tempo hotly reactive. The common phrase "hijinks ensue" applies as the film rounds the bend to its eccentric conclusion, pulling the central couple into a place both new and familiar.
The irony of "Dusseldorf" is that, amid all the bustle, both Sonya and Michael can find their way back to both their art and each other. The sturm-und-drang manages to kick up some honest conversation and reckoning. Like Jules and her brother, we can only stand back and admire the strange ballet we call human relations, in all its madness and mayhem.